Prepared by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) and published by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) has reviewing the expense and advantages of five regulatory approaches now being contemplated to enhance the amount of new housing available for seniors or who are physically challenged.

Referencing a measure described as a ‘problem reduction approach’, the report revealed that the expenses outnumbered the benefits for each of the five options being considered.

Through the employment of an alternative ‘willingness to pay’ method, only a single option netted benefits.

In this report, the CIE advised caution in hastening to present new accessible housing standards.

According to the initial evidence assembled for the Consultation RIS, the costs affiliated with incorporating an accessible housing standard in the NCC are believed to outnumber the advantages under the central estimates for all of the choices tested, it asserted.

This report arrives after a 2017 directive from the Building Minister’s Forum, which summoned the ABCB to perform a regulatory impact analysis regarding the possible inclusion of accessibility guidelines for new houses and apartment units in the 2022 update of the NCC.

Choices being contemplated are inspired by Liveable Housing Design Guidelines (LHDG) devised by Liveable Housing Australia.

In accordance with these guidelines, houses can be rated and awarded silver, gold and platinum levels in accordance with their accessibility features.

To attain a silver rating, for instance, houses must possess:

  • access without steps from road and parking areas
  • a minimum of one step-free entry into the dwelling
  • interior doors and hallways that make easy access possible
  • a first-floor toilet
  • a step-free shower area
  • reinforced lavatory walls to facilitate grabrail installation; and
  • a continuous handrail lining the staircase.

For gold or platinum ratings, extra features are needed in rooms like kitchens, bedrooms, living areas and floors.

In this report, CIE listed five choices:

  • A required accessibility standard which mirrors the LHDG silver standard into the NCC applying to new one-storey houses and apartment units (Option 1).
  • A required accessibility standard which mirrors the LHDG gold standard into the NCC applying to all new one-storey houses and apartment units (Option 2).
  • A required accessibility standard which mirrors the LHDG gold standard (with certain platinum features) into the NCC applicable to one-storey houses and apartments (Option 3).
  • A required accessibility standard which mirrors LHDG Gold standard into the NCC applicable to new Class 2 buildings (apartments) only (Option 4).
  • subsidy to facilitate extra availability of easily accessed rentals (Option 5).

Applying a ‘problem reducing tactic’ which measures the result of problems emerging from a depletion of access-driven housing as well as the extent to which alternate choices would circumvent these problems, the analysis discovered that expenses would outweigh benefits with each of these choices.

Using a separate option called ‘willingness to pay’ – which utilises survey info to estimate the importance that people put on accessibility features suggested – it states that expenses outweigh benefits with all choices with the exception of option 1.

In this report, CIE discovered that the introduction of an accessibility guideline into the NCC for houses could guarantee benefits in a few areas.

These include fewer instances of: injuries related to falls, hospitalisation, isolation, home modification, requirement for carers, need to relocate, early entry into elder care homes and more social expense to the community.

These benefits were more than exceeded by the extra costs incurred.

Aside from the direct subsidy in the instance of option 5 (subsidy option), these include more building costs as well as opportunity costs affiliated with space taken up by accessibility features unavailable for alternate applications.

Feedback regarding RIS will be accepted until August 31, 2020.